National Committee To Free The Cuban Five
Press conference highlights the
injustice against the Cuban Five;
calls for their immediate freedom
Today, with the 12th anniversary of the imprisonment of the Cuban Five approaching, a
press conference featured a range of speakers who called on U.S.
President Barack Obama to remedy the injustice done to the Five and set
Speakers included Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell,
Wayne Smith, the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana under President Carter, Andrés Gómez, director of the Antonio Maceo Brigade and representing the Alianza Martiana, Brian Becker, the national director of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice (PCJ), and Gloria La Riva, coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
Wilkerson shared a story which indicates the extent to which the U.S.
government wants to squelch the growing support for the Five. In 2007, after hearing a talk at Howard University Law School by Attorney Leonard Weinglass, Wilkerson published an article
expressing his feelings about the mistreatment of the Five by the U.S.
justice system. Shortly thereafter, he was visited by the FBI, who gave
him documents designed, in their words, to give him a "balanced view" of
the case. "I read it," Wilkerson said, "along with some other
information I was provided, and I still think it was an injustice. This
did not change my mind at all with regard to the change of venue issue,
and it certainly didn't change my mind at all regarding the draconian
sentences that these men got."
Smith reviewed the history
of the case of the Five. He noted that "it had been hoped that once
Bush was out of office and Obama was in, that the Obama Administration
would allow, in fact would encourage the Supreme Court to hear the case,
and I think with that the whole thing would have been thrown out. But
to our great disappointment, Elena Kagan, who was then Solicitor-General
President Obama, insisted that the Supreme Court not hear the case, and
so it stands as it is, with the Five still in prison, unjustly
Speaking on behalf of the progressive Cuban-American community in Miami, Gómez remarked
that Miami-based terrorism has exacted a terrible price in Cuba and in
the United States as well. He called on the U.S. government to renounce
the use of terrorism against Cuba. "We have been victims of terrorism
throughout all these years. Thousands of Cubans are dead as a result of
this policy. Billions of dollars have been lost in Cuba. Miami as a
political community has been handicapped tremendously because of the
potential use of terrorism against those who oppose the right-wing."
announced that today the PCJ filed another FOIA demand on behalf of the
National Committee against the U.S. State Department, as part of
the National Committee's continuing efforts to expose
secret payments to Miami journalists before and during the trial of the
Five. She said government agencies are still stonewalling the National
Committee by refusing to hand over documents revealing the extent of
government payments. "This goes to the heart of the issue. It is bad
enough that the trial was held in Miami, but the U.S. government, the
State department, is barred by law from propagandizing to influence U.s.
public opinion. There needs to be exposure and accountability for what
Becker spoke of the mobilizations that the
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and many other organizations will hold in support
of the Five in the next few days. "Whenever there is a decision to
commute a sentence or grant clemency, as happened when Eric Holder was
deputy attorney general during the Clinton years, with the Puerto Rican
nationalists who were incarcerated in U.S. federal prisons, those
changes came about as a consequence of multiple
factors: prominent people speaking out; people of conscious around the
world coming together in a way that makes it possible, feasible,
realizable, for the government to change its course. We know this can
happen, and we look forward to the upcoming demonstrations, as one of
many steps, to tell the truth and ultimately win the release of these
La Riva announced that the National Committee will soon begin a campaign to raise funds for a full-page ad in the Washington Post,
calling on the Obama administration to free the Cuban Five immediately.
"A tortuous court process has denied them justice. Three presidents
have not only aggressively prosecuted their imprisonment, they have also
ignored the appeals of two of the wives to even be able to enter the
United States to visit their husbands."
The complete press conference is online in both video and audio formats,
which you can access through the links below.
Also online are a series of "recommended reading" related to the press
conference, including articles by Wilkerson, Smith, and Gómez, as well
as the material that has been revealed thus far by our FOIA efforts.